MILLBURY, Ohio — A tornado destroyed dozens of homes and an emergency services building in northwest Ohio as a line of storms killed at least seven people and briefly threatened the Northeast on Sunday.
Storms collapsed a movie-theater roof in Illinois and ripped siding off a building at a Michigan nuclear plant, forcing a shutdown. But most of the worst was reserved for a 100-yard-wide, 7-mile-long strip southeast of Toledo now littered with wrecked vehicles, splintered wood and family possessions.
The tornado ripped the roof and back wall off Lake High School's gymnasium at about 11 p.m. Saturday, several hours before the graduation ceremony was supposed to begin. The school board president said one of the victims was the father of the class valedictorian.
Two buses were tossed on their sides and another was thrown about 50 yards, landing on its top near the high school's football field.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer flew over the damaged area and said at least 50 homes were destroyed and another 50 severely damaged, as well as six commercial buildings. The storm struck an area of farm fields and light industry, narrowly missing the heavily populated suburbs on the southern edge of Toledo.
"It's a war zone," Hummer said. "It's pretty disheartening."
The tornado turned a township police and emergency medical services building into a mishmash of 2-by-4 framing and pink insulation. Hummer was talking to a police dispatcher by phone when the storm hit.
"She started saying, 'The building is shaking,' and then another dispatcher came on and said, 'The roof just blew off,' " he said.
The storm ripped off most of the building's back half and wrapped part of the metal roof around a tree. At least six police vehicles — half the township's fleet — were destroyed, and one car was tossed into the spot where the building once stood.
The storm knocked out emergency services for a short time, and all the emergency dispatchers and 911 operators had to be moved to a nearby town.
"When the people who are supposed to help you are victims of the storm, it does take you a minute to catch your breath," Hummer said.
Those killed included a person outside the police department and a motorist, Hummer said. He said a young child and two other victims were from nearby Millbury, a bedroom community of roughly 1,200 about 10 miles southeast of Toledo. Hummer said two other people died at hospitals but he did not have details.
More than 30 people in the Toledo area were hospitalized. Two adults and two children were in critical condition, said Mercy hospital system spokeswoman Gloria Enk.
In southeastern Michigan, severe storms and high winds ripped siding off a building at the Fermi 2 nuclear plant, causing it to shut down automatically, said Dan Smith, the public information officer for Monroe County. Investigators were inspecting the plant on Sunday, and it was expected to go back into operation, Smith said.
Tornadoes also were reported in Illinois. More than a dozen people were injured in Dwight, where about 40 mobile homes and 10 other homes were destroyed, Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson said.
The roof of a movie theater collapsed in Elmwood, about 30 miles west of Peoria. State Trooper Dustin Pierce said 150 to 200 people had been inside, but they had been evacuated to the basement and no one was hurt.
The storms left a trail of damaged homes in northern Indiana and two tornadoes were reported, but no one was injured. In eastern Iowa, buildings were damaged and one person was hurt when a tornado touched down in Maquoketa.